Warmbier Family Spurns Trump Exoneration of Kim Role in Death

March 1, 2019, 3:58 PM UTC

The parents of Otto Warmbier rejected President Donald Trump’s comments that he took Kim Jong Un “at his word” that the North Korean leader had no role in the torture of their son, who later died from injuries sustained during imprisonment.

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement released Friday. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”

After a meeting in Hanoi Thursday that ended without progress on elimination of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Trump told reporters that Kim “felt bad” about the imprisonment and torture of Warmbier, who died after being detained in North Korea for more than 17 months.

“In those prisons and those camps you have a lot of people, and some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things,” Trump said. “But he tells me he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”

Trump’s statement provoked immediate criticism from human rights advocates and U.S. lawmakers.

Members of Congress compared Trump’s reluctance to criticize Kim with his refusal to condemn Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in the murder of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year, or to dispute Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial that his country interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help Trump win.